Tuesday 30 September 2008

On Photography - up on the roof

In contrast to my last post, the most recent photography acquisition of the Auckland Art Gallery is Richard Collins’ photograph Auckland Roofs of 1973. Richard was born in Wellington and educated at Christ's College, Christchurch before he trained as an architect at the University of Auckland. He began his photography during the early 1960s and learnt to make prints from Gary Baigent. Using a 35mm camera, he travelled throughout New Zealand making lyrical photographs of young adults and the ways in which they were then living.

Auckland Roofs is an impressive image because it is wonderfully subtle. As a large-scale vintage exhibition print, it is also a tremendous discovery for the Gallery. Two men (as seen in the detail above) survey Auckland from the top of the roof on a Freeman's Bay villa, in Franklin Road. The image was produced at the time when Ponsonby was still regarded as being an area of low cost housing dating from the Victorian era. Students, senior citizens and immigrant Pacific Islanders where the predominant residents of this inner city suburb.

Richard has obviously had to climb onto the roof of the house to get the image. The surreal notion of there being another rooftop ‘world’ is typical of the artist’s discerning humour, when an unexpected moment quickly marks the occasion of the image’s gathering. The tone of the print expresses the summer’s day with limpid heat. Looking back, we can sense the small town quality which Auckland still had the vestiges of in the early 1970s.


Richard Collins
Auckland Roofs
Gelatin silver print
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, purchased 2008

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